It happened to me again last week. I was in the Midwestern U.S. and a complete stranger offered me the kind of hospitality usually reserved for a friend.
After a day full of flight delays caused by everything from weather to the lack of an available gate for my plane to pull up to and unload passengers, a taxi dropped me off at the front door of my Louisville, Kentucky, hotel. It was getting late and I had to check in and find out how best to get to the Kentucky Exposition Center early the following morning to take in the National Farm Machinery Show.
As I walked into the lobby of this small hotel, the clerk at the desk was on the telephone and another man was standing at the counter waiting to talk to her. That man and I exchanged brief hellos as I walked in. He was tall, topped off with a John Deere ball cap. His plaid shirt and boots presented a classic farmer appearance, so I took a chance.
“Here for the show?” I asked as we stood waiting our turn at the desk. “Yes. I usually come every year,” he answered. Just then the clerk hung up the phone and, overhearing our conversation, chimed in: “He’s stayed here every year for the show for the last 15 years,” she added, smiling. The tall man nodded in agreement.
He then stepped back and insisted I check in first before he took care of his business. As I finished up by inquiring about how best to arrange transportation in the morning. The tall man, who had introduced himself as Jim, said, “Oh, just be in the lobby around 7:30 and you can ride over with me.”
It was a pretty helpful offer. After I agreed, the clerk looked at Jim and said, “If he isn’t here when you come out just knock on the door of 114.”
Giving away my room number probably violated any number of the hotel chain’s policies, but it didn’t seem to matter, and I really didn’t mind. In the morning at the complimentary breakfast bar, it seemed everyone was a farmer and there for the show. I was invited to sit at a table with a group of Ontario producers who, like Jim the night before, said they make the trip down to the show every year and stay at this hotel. There seemed to be an air of that rural friendliness you find in most farming communities mixed with U.S. Southern hospitality permeating the hotel.
Sure enough, at 7:30 Jim came into the lobby, and we drove over to the show grounds together. The next morning we travelled together again.
On my last evening at the hotel, I bumped into Jim in the hallway as I was on my way out to look for a restaurant for supper. Turned out, Jim was doing exactly the same. He told me where he was going and invited me along. I accepted again, and we had a very interesting conversation over supper about farming life on both sides of the 49th parallel, while sitting at the bar of a Waffle chain restaurant. The cafe was nothing fancy, just one that offered some real stick-to-your-ribs kind of food. Exactly the kind of place some practical-thinking farmers might patronize.
As I thought about my experiences in Louisville on my flight back to Canada, it wasn’t just Jim and the other farmer guests at the hotel who were extraordinarily friendly. It seemed that everyone connected with events at the show really showed that combination of southern hospitality and rural friendliness.
At the start of this blog, I did mention that this sort of thing had happened again. Here’s why. On a previous trip to Waterloo, Iowa, I was sitting at my gate in Minneapolis airport waiting for my connecting flight to board. An older woman sitting near me noticed my Canadian passport and asked why I was going to Waterloo.
After a brief conversation, she asked if the company was picking me up at the airport. “No, I’ll have to take a cab,” I explained.
“Oh, that will take forever,” she said. “What hotel are you staying at?” When I told her, I was surprised by what she said next. “I’ll drop you off. It’s not far out of my way.” She said it in a way that implied I had to no choice in the matter.
And she did drop me off.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me at a Canadian farming event. We Canadians seem to be proud of our reputation for being polite, but folk in the Midwestern U.S. are, hands down, the friendliest—at least in my experience.